Reuters says it has seen an internal Department of Homeland Security document that states 872 waivers for refugees were granted in the first week after President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending the refugee program.
A DHS official confirmed these waivers to Reuters, explaining the refugees were already “in transit” and cleared for resettlement. The official did not know if more waivers would be forthcoming, and did not specify the nationalities of the 872 refugees affected. The refugee program has been suspended for 120 days, plus a potentially longer indefinite suspension for Syria.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly confirmed the waivers officially, and said they were granted because the recipients would face “undue hardship” if they were prevented from completing their travel to the United States, according to UPI. Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan also confirmed the granting of the waivers.
One of the biggest lingering questions about Trump’s refugee order concerns former President Barack Obama’s agreement to accept a large number of refugees currently quartered on Pacific island camps by Australia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was given assurances by President Trump in a weekend phone call that this commitment would be honored, although he did not specify how many of these refugees the United States would accept.
“Australia refused to accept the refugees and instead pays for them to be housed on the nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. More than 1,200 asylum seekers are held on Papua New Guinea and Nauru,” Fox News observes. An additional 400 refugees who were admitted to Australia for medical treatment, and then refused to return to the island camps, are also reportedly eligible for settlement in the United States.
Australia has been criticized for these measures, which do seem to have cut off the flow of refugees. The Daily Telegraph cited some grim statistics for migrants who do make it to Australian soil: they have a 33% unemployment rate during their first five years, a rate that has doubled over the past decade. Their unemployment rate is three times higher than that of European or Asian immigrants, and six times higher than Australia’s national average.
The Daily Telegraph article quotes different explanations for the migrant unemployment problem from various sources. “Islamic migration experts” attribute it to racism and discrimination against “jobseekers named Mohammed and women wearing hijabs,” while academic researchers and public officials spoke of poor educational backgrounds and the need for English language tuition.
Australia’s ABC News accused the Trump White House of “backtracking” on the refugee deal with Australia on Wednesday, although they quote Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying the deal would go ahead with “extreme vetting” for the refugees, and a White House source followed up by saying President Trump would honor the deal because of America’s “longstanding relationship with Australia.”
Australian officials also told ABC the arrangement would more forward, colorfully (and quite possibly accurately) saying Trump told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “get on with it.” The relocation was originally scheduled to begin early in 2017.
The ABC article makes it sound like just about all of Australia’s unsettled refugees would be coming to America, even though some of them hail from the countries covered by Trump’s executive order. Most of them are reportedly from Iran, with some Iraqis and Somalis as well.
Potential complications were presaged by Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who commented on the chance that some of these refugees will fail the “extreme vetting” process: “If they don’t fulfill the U.S.’s vetting, then they’re not getting into the U.S. How they deal with issues with Australia is something entirely different.”